Supermarket self-service ‘trick’ is actually ‘against the law’, warn legal experts

The cost of living crisis has led to people across the country tightening their purse strings and shopping around for deals – including when they visit their local supermarkets.

Whether it’s shopping at specific times of day to get reduced items, or using vouchers at checkouts, Britons are going to great lengths to bag a bargain.

However, legal experts have warned one supermarket “trick” shoppers are trying at self-service checkouts to save money is actually illegal.

Self-service checkouts can be found in the majority of UK supermarkets and while they have systems in place to stop theft, it’s often up to customers to be honest about their purchases.

Now, one shopper has been warned her “cheeky” self-service tactic could land her in hot water.

A woman wrote in to’s Sisters In Law, a weekly column which claims to solve people’s legal problems.

The column’s resident lawyers are real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett, highly experienced lawyers who are passionate about social justice campaigners.

The woman told Alison and Jillian that her friend regularly puts more expensive fruit and vegetables through as cheaper items when she uses self-service checkouts.

For example, when buying an avocado, she puts it through as a brown onion.

The friend said she doesn’t think this is stealing as she’s still paying for an item. She also said supermarkets work the cost of self-checkout fraud into their prices because “everyone does it”.

Alison and Jillian said what the woman’s friend is doing is “against the law”. They explained: “It doesn’t matter how your friend tries to justify her behaviour, her deceitful conduct in intentionally not paying full price is against the law.

“Your friend’s technique of using the self-service checkout to pass off more expensive items as cheaper ones cheats the system by underpaying.

“Her fraudulent behaviour is just one of many tricks employed by self-service thieves to avoid payment.”

The lawyers warned that these deceitful tactics used by shoppers are actually costing supermarkets a fortune each year and are actually pushing up the price of groceries.

Self-checkout systems have a scale which weighs the item in the bagging area.

Staff are put on self-service checkouts to monitor whether people are being honest or not and to ensure the checkouts are being used properly.

The lawyers warned that if the woman’s friend gets caught out, “an excuse like getting avocados confused with brown onions is likely not going to cut it”.

In Australia, if the friend is caught, she could face having to pay a fine or even criminal charges if she continues to repeat her behaviour.



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